Eastern California is on its own
- Not much can be done for Eastern California. But I am still waiting for Sacramento to address desalination plants for the people and businesses of California.
BISHOP -- The fire came up quickly here in the eastern Sierra Nevada, destroying 35 homes and taking the mountainside community of Swall Meadows by surprise. Who would expect a roiling wildfire -- throwing fireballs and whipping up flame whirls through 7,000 acres of sagebrush, piñon and Jeffrey pine -- in the dead of winter?
It is now.
Twigs should be bending now, not breaking. The ground around Swall Meadows should be wet and mushy. But there's been so little snow in recent years that locals have taken to saying, "Now we get 15 feet of wind."
The Battle Over Water
The neighborhood of Swall Meadows sits on the high-desert edge of the Owens Valley, a place whose fortunes and fate have revolved around battles over water. This is where the city of Los Angeles, a century ago, lured ranchers into selling their irrigated land and Owens River water rights. At one point in the 1920s, dissident ranchers set dynamite to the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Books, including Marc Reisner's seminal "Cadillac Desert," have been written about it. The 1974 Oscar-winning movie "Chinatown," starring Jack Nicholson, dramatized it.
To look at the landscape, it's hard to imagine a place like this would have that much water to fight over. It's brown and scrubby -- dotted like a plucked chicken with sage and bitterbrush.
This is not the Sierra of Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, where dense forests and scenic meadows and miles and miles of rolling foothills gradually spill into the Central Valley. This is what locals like to call the "front side" of the Sierra, where the mountains fall as sharply as a guillotine on the landscape. The peaks are so high -- at 13,000 feet -- that storms blowing in from the Pacific tire out by the time they get here, leaving the Owens Valley in a "rain shadow."
In a typical year, only about 5 inches of rainfall, just enough for the desert peach and wild iris to cast their blooms across the glacial moraine and, with snowmelt, fill Southern California aqueducts. Since January, the rain gauges here have barely registered.
Read More at the San Jose Mercury News.com
|The War Against the Los Angeles Aqueduct|
One hundred years ago, the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct gave birth to our modern metropolis while forever constraining the destiny of the rural communities near the water’s source in the Owens Valley. In contemporary Los Angeles, we express our collective guilt by referring to the 233-mile engineering marvel as our “original sin.” But vague expressions of guilt have done little to assuage the anger in the Owens Valley—an anger that has often boiled over into violence.